I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded and commercially successful Minneapolis, MN-based hip-hop act and JOVM mainstays Atmosphere over the course of this site’s almost 10 year history. Formed over 20 years ago, the Minneapolis-based JOVM mainstays have a long-held reputation for pushing the boundaries of what hip-hop should sound like and concern itself with thematically — especially as its founding (and core) duo Slug and Ant find themselves with adult responsibilities and concerns, and inching towards middle age.
2018’s Mi Vida Local thematically found the pair grappling with their own mortality — and more importantly, the anxiety and fear of one’s powerlessness in a mad and dangerous world. Now, as you may recall, the duo closed out last year with the surprise release of their seventh and latest album Whenever. The new album thematically finds the duo continuing to struggle with their mortality and frailties, while figuring out what it means to grow up and grow old gracefully within hip-hop, as well as the need to balance protecting your enemies and soul without glowering and bitter cynicism.
Whenever’s first single “Bde Maka Ska,” sonically continues in the vein of Mi Vida Local: centered around a bluesy and dusty production featuring twinkling keys, fuzzy wah wah pedaled guitar and a gospel choir-like backing vocal, the song’s narrator takes tock of his own life an decisions, while yearning for peace and serenity in a mad, mad, mad world. And at its core, is the profound realization that in life, sometimes have to stop pushing, stop forcing and stop fighting against the tide, and accept that the universe lets things happen (or not) at their own pace. “Lovely,” the album’s second single continued with the bluesy productions but paired with anxious and skittering percussion, looping blasts of bluesy guitar, big boom bap beats and Nikki Jean‘s soulful hook. Throughout Slug’s conflicted narrator speaks about feeling the swooning sense of hope of love while confronting his own insecurities, frailties and heard-earned (and rarely wanted) cynicism.
“Love Each Other,” Whenever‘s third single is centered around a soulful, J. Dilla-esque production, featuring shimmering guitar, twinkling keys and boom-bap beats while Slug rhymes about love and its complications through the eyes of a conflicted and dysfunctional narrator, full of anxieties, self-loathing, self-doubt and uncertainty. His doubts are ironically emphasized through a confusing and uncertain affair in which love and lust are hopelessly intertwined — and throughout the song, the song’s narrator wonders if they even know or like each other. (If you’ve been there before the feelings of confusion, shame, uncertainty and discomfort the song evokes should feel familiar.
Directed by the band’s long-time visual collaborator Tomas Aksamit, the video stars Atmosphere’s Slug and Ant, Dawson Ehlke and Brielle Carmichael. Shot in a gorgeously cinematic black and white, the video follows a young man at a swanky gathering, desperate to find love. But is it all a dream? A figment of his imagination? We’ll let you decide.
“The Wherever Tour – North America” Dates:
January 13 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
January 14 – Chicago, IL – Metro
January 15 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Music Hall
January 17 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
January 18 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
January 20 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground Ballroom
January 21 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
January 23 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
January 24 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
January 25 – New Haven, CT – College Street Music Hall
January 27 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
January 28 – Asheville, TN – The Orange Peel
January 29 – Nashville, TN – The Cowan
January 31 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater
February 1 – Oklahoma City, OK – Tower Theatre
February 4 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
February 5 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park
February 8 – Los Angeles, CA – The Novo
February 9 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
February 11 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
February 12 – Reno, NV – Cargo Concert Hall at Whitney Peak Hotel
February 14 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Union Event Center
February 15 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House
February 16 – Missoula, MT – The Wilma
February 18 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory Concert House
February 19 – Eugene, OR – McDonald Theatre
February 21 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater (w/ added special guests Blimes and Gab)
February 22 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Sodo (w/ added special guests Blimes and Gab)
February 23 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore Ballroom
February 25 – Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall
February 26 – Saskatoon, SK – Coors Event Centre